Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn: the Ireland Recap, Days 6 & 7

Perhaps my new favorite city in the whole world: Galway

Day 6: The Cliffs of Moher & the Night I Fell in Love with Galway City

Because we hadn’t had enough of Ireland’s natural beauty in the previous two days, on our drive up to Galway we stopped off at the Cliffs of Moher. This is a pretty famous tourist destination, and even in the winter it was packed. The museum is interesting and slowly winds you up to the cliff faces indoors away from the wind. For the best views though, you’ll have to brave the cold.

There’s only a wall around the cliffs closest to the visitor center, and the views there are good. The rest of the cliffs are in the open, and the wind comes in strong gusts, so you’ll have to be careful. It was slick and muddy when we were there, on top of being crowded with other people wanting to see the cliffs. There were times it made me anxious, which I honestly think took away from my experience. That being said, the view was beautiful.

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

We had a late lunch in the cafeteria inside the tourist center before heading on to Galway. A lot of this drive is on the Wild Atlantic Way, so the coastal views continue to be amazing.

After days of driving on country roads, driving in Galway city was a little stressful. However, we made it to our Airbnb without much ado. This was probably our favorite Airbnb of the trip, and it wasn’t just because there was a king-size bed. It was a small apartment in someone’s converted garage, and it had a small piece of the deck partitioned off outside. If we had visited in summer, I imagine we would have spent some time out there. But the best part was where it was located. The street was quiet at night, but it was only a 10-minute walk from everything that was happening in the city.

We wandered around a part of the city called the Claddagh. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably due to the famous ring that originated here. The story is a romantic one and the rings are often used as engagement and wedding bands. You can pick up a simple sterling silver version as just about any shop in town for 25 euro.

Anyway, hubs found a local cult favorite restaurant that kind of blew my mind. It’s a place called Fat Freddy’s and it’s nestled in between shops and pubs on Quay Street (sound like a local: this is pronounced key street). It’s a pizza place with a heap of vegan options, and they have a deal where you can choose a starter, a pizza, and get a glass of house wine for 20 euro or so. If that sounds expensive, keep in mind that this amount of food will easily feed two people. Easily. We didn’t know this and ordered two of each, but that meant that we had some pizza to take home with us to munch on later. Honestly, I just loved the vibe of this place. There’s comic strips all over the walls, and the customers were a lot of young Irish teenagers on first dates or just catching up, and local families. This was a great find and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to experience Galway.

Salt House Bar in Galway, an outpost of Galway Bay Brewery

Hubs scored another great find this night as we walked back to our Airbnb, about halfway home, he pulled me into a little bar called the Salt House. This was a snug fit of a pub outside the main tourist thoroughfares in the city. Hubs explained to me that this was one of I think 3 outposts in the city owned by Galway Bay Brewery. We enjoy a good craft beer, and after all the Guinness and Murphy’s, the new flavor profiles were welcome.

The bar itself was cozy with board games tucked on shelves, and the walls were covered in stickers from other craft breweries around the world. We sat at a small table in the corner, and when I turned to look at the beam next to me, I saw stickers from Dunedin: a brewery in Florida we’d visited a few years before (I have a hoodie from them that I wear a lot at home). Then I remembered that I had a sticker from our local haunt at home floating around the bottom of my purse, and there was a spot on that beam just calling for it. I didn’t have my purse with me on this particular outing, so we vowed to return to our home-away-from-home local pub. Cue the theme of Galway: it hugged me like home.

Day 7: Our Final Day in Ireland and Galway’s Culinary Revolution

We didn’t get out of bed until pretty late the next day. It was the last full day of our vacation and we really wanted to underline the theme of slow down. All that was on the agenda for the day was finding some souvenirs and going on an Irish food tour. After forcing ourselves to get out of bed and ready to go, hubs led me to a place for breakfast (remember, he was in charge of this portion of the trip). I was surprised to walk under the Spanish Arch: the famous but underwhelming landmark in Galway (really, you can walk right under it and not even know it).

A turmeric latte with almond milk from Galway City Museum

Turns out one of the best breakfast places in Galway is inside the Galway City Museum. We sat down and explored the menu, which had many vegan options. Over breakfast we made a plan for the rest of the day up until our food tour, where a local guide would take over.

Our first stop for shopping was Judy Greene Pottery because some jewelry had caught our eye on a stroll down the street the day before. This is not just a pottery studio, but has a lot of unique pieces for all over your home and office, as well as clothing and jewelry. The artist makes some beautiful pieces with connemara marble, which is only found in Western Ireland. You won’t find any cliche shamrock souvenirs here.

Our next stop was an occult shop I’d scouted online, Amber Holistic Products. As soon as we walked in, I knew there would be some great finds. They have everything you can imagine, from crystals to cauldrons, sun catchers to pre-packaged candle spells. I honestly could have spent a very long time exploring every nook and cranny in the place. We purchased a couple small items as gifts, and not only did the woman at the register take the care to gift wrap them, but upon purchase, she whipped out a smudge stick and cleansed the items we’d chosen.

I made a quick stop at an old, cramped jewelry store to grab one of the aforementioned 25 euro claddagh rings. While there, the woman at the counter told us that it had been smart to save most of our shopping until we got to Galway because that’s where people that live in Ireland come to shop; everything is made in that area of the country. I remarked that we’d had a lot more success finding unique gifts in that area of the country, and it’s true. If you’re someone who likes to shop when you travel, skip Dublin and save it for Galway.

An upper level of Skeffington Arms Hotel Bar, affectionately known as The Skeff, a longstanding pub in Galway City

Shopping complete, we headed to the bar where we were supposed to meet our guide for the food tour. It ended up being a small group–just us and another couple from the Dublin area who was on their honeymoon. Irony of ironies, the man was an Irish dairy farmer. For any of my fellow vegans worried about a food tour in the land of lamb stew and potatoes, I’m here to offer you comfort. I had spoken with our guide ahead of time to clarify that I would need vegan options before I booked the tour, and he assured me it would be fine. Upon meeting him, we found out he was vegetarian himself and had arranged options for me at all of the restaurants we were slated to visit.

We learned about the history of Ireland and how it affected the food culture of the country as it evolved. The guide was also very helpful in directing us towards the best local haunts for after the tour. The tour included three courses with a drink pairing for each, and yes, everything was delicious. Mushroom soup, roasted root vegetables, sorbet, wine, beer, whiskey–don’t let a dietary restriction stop you from enjoying the culinary revolution that is happening in Galway.

While on our tour, surrounded by talented street performers on every corner, our guide informed us that Galway had been named the 2020 Cultural Capitol of the World. So if you’re planning a trip in 2020, you know where to go.

After our tour, we headed back to the Salt House for one last round of stout in an Irish pub. The bartender remembered us, and a man sitting at the bar was shocked to learn that tourists came into the small pub. I pulled out the sticker from our local haunt back home and stuck it on the spot on the wall I’d discovered the night before, leaving our mark in Galway. We enjoyed our beers, taking in the atmosphere around us, hoping to never forget how at home we felt all the way across the ocean.

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